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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
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The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Lightning Foundation hosted their Official Sled Hockey Kick-Off program on Sunday, December 3 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Lightning Foundation and the Lightning's Fan Development Department hosted their first bi-monthly clinics on Sunday. They will be held at the St. Pete Times Forum and will also be held on Sunday, December 10, Sunday, January 14 and Sunday, January 21. The time for all clinics is 3 p.m.

This program makes the Lightning the first and only team to organize and fully sponsor a sled hockey team in their market.

The Lightning Fan Development Department will provide all equipment for registered participants. To reserve a place in the clinic those interested players should contact David K.B. Cole at 813.301.6822.

Sled hockey was invented at a Swedish rehabilitation center in the early 1960s by a group of Swedes who, despite their physical impairment, wanted to continue playing hockey. The men modified a sled and used round poles with bike handles for sticks. The sport caught on and in 1969 Stockholm hosted the first international ice sled hockey match between a local club team and one from Oslo, Norway.

Two Swedish national teams played an exhibition match at the inaugural 1976 Paralympic Winter Games in Sweden. However, sled hockey did not become an official event until the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Winter Games. Canada, Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, the U.S., Japan and Estonia have dominated international competitions, but the sport is growing with club teams now established in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Russia and Korea.

Among the differences between sled hockey and traditional ice hockey:

• Instead of skates, players sit in specially designed sleds. These sleds sit on top of two hockey skate blades.

• There are two sticks for each player instead of one. These sticks are about 1/3 the length of a regulation stick depending on the size of the player. They also have metal picks on the butt end of the stick.

• At most rinks, the bench is inaccessible. Therefore, the players sit on the ice along the boards in front of the benches between the blue line and red line. The same goes for penalties. They sit in front of the penalty box.
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